M. Night Shyamalan Blasts Disney in New Tell-All Book

Discussion in 'Movies' started by DavidPla, Jun 23, 2006.

  1. DavidPla

    DavidPla Cinematographer

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    Crazy...

    http://www.latimes.com/news/printedi...ck=1&cset=true

    "Shyamalan Book Tells of Breakup With Disney By Claudia Eller, Times Staff Writer June 23, 2006 A new chapter has just been written in Hollywood about the never-ending tension between "the talent" and "the suits." It can be found in a soon-to-be-published tell-all book that offers something very rare, indeed: a candid recounting, complete with tears and recriminations, of a messy divorce between a movie studio and one of the world's most famous writer-directors. In "The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale," the 35-year-old filmmaker whose name has become synonymous with spooky suspense thrillers crucifies the top executives at the company he long had considered his artistic home since his 1999 surprise hit "The Sixth Sense": Walt Disney Studios. Penned by Sports Illustrated writer Michael Bamberger with Shyamalan's blessing and extensive participation, the 278-page book hits stores July 20. That's one day before the theatrical premiere of Shyamalan's new movie, "Lady in the Water," which is at the center of the dispute that led him to part ways with Disney. The $70-million movie, a scary fantasy that stars Paul Giamatti as an apartment building superintendent who rescues a sea nymph he finds in his swimming pool, was ultimately financed by Warner Bros. But arguably as shocking as the movie itself is the way Shyamalan, in the book, disses his former studio. As galleys circulate around town, that more than anything else has people musing about just how fragile relationships between artists and executives can be. Disney production President Nina Jacobson gets the worst drubbing. Jacobson and Shyamalan enjoyed a close, albeit sometimes combative, relationship. Over six years, she shepherded his four Disney films including "Unbreakable," "Signs" and "The Village." On what would have been their fifth collaboration, their bond so eroded that the two didn't speak for more than a year. At a disastrous dinner in Philadelphia last year, Jacobson delivered a frank critique of the "Lady in the Water" script. When she told him that she and her boss, studio Chairman Dick Cook, didn't "get" the idea, Shyamalan was heartbroken. Things got only worse when she lambasted his inclusion of a mauling of a film critic in the story line and told Shyamalan his decision to cast himself as a visionary writer out to change the world bordered on self-serving. But Shyamalan gets his revenge on Jacobson in the book, in which he says he had felt for some time that he "had witnessed the decay of her creative vision right before his own wide-open eyes. She didn't want iconoclastic directors. She wanted directors who made money." Bamberger readily acknowledges that the book is told from Shyamalan's point of view. "It's not intended to be balanced," Bamberger said of the book, based on a year he spent shadowing Shyamalan. "It's a Night-centric view of how Night works." If that's all it was, of course, there wouldn't be so many bruised feelings at Disney, whose executives the book maligns as drones who lack creative vision. Of Disney's three top executives, Jacobson, Cook and marketing head Oren Aviv, the book says, "They had morphed into one, the embodiment of the company they worked for. And that company … no longer valued individualism … no longer valued fighters." Nevertheless, the book says Shyamalan was haunted by them. "Sometimes Night would close his eyes and see little oval black and white head shots of Nina Jacobson and Oren Aviv and Dick Cook floating around in his head, unwanted houseguests that would not leave," Bamberger writes. "The Disney people had gotten deep inside his head, interfering with the good work the voices were supposed to do — and it would be hell to get them out." In an interview, Bamberger said that in that section — like in several others — he was channeling Shyamalan's deepest convictions, even though the book usually does not quote the writer-director directly. "Night really let me get inside his head," Bamberger said. "He told me what he was thinking, and I wrote it." Shyamalan was vacationing in France and did not respond to questions sent via e-mail. His publicist, Leslee Dart, said her client "totally supports the book," and the book's publisher, William Shinker of Gotham Books, said Shyamalan had agreed to help promote the nonfiction account. Were it not for Bamberger's book, the Disney-Shyamalan split might have been viewed as just another beat amid the constant churn of Hollywood relationships. Everyone knows that highly accomplished artists are often as deeply insecure as they are brilliant. It can be a challenge for executives to pacify the creative folks, while pleasing the bean counters. "There is an elusive balance that all parties strive for between art and commerce," said Warner Bros. President Alan Horn, who was Shyamalan's first call after the breakup with Disney. With "Lady in the Water," which is being launched with a $70-million marketing campaign, Horn said, "We're trying to support a film that has unique artistic expression and at the same time make money." Paramount Pictures President Gail Berman, whose studio recently decided to postpone production of "Ripley's Believe It or Not," starring Jim Carrey, over budgetary concerns, agreed. "We all walk the line of devotion to the artist and fiscal responsibility," she said. "Sometimes this is the trickiest part of the job." But, whereas Carrey and director Tim Burton are continuing to work out their script issues with Paramount, Shyamalan didn't give Disney that option. As the book says, Shyamalan felt that when executives criticized his "Lady in the Water" script "they were rejecting him." So he walked. Disney's executives are not the only ones who are ripped in the book. Miramax Films co-founder Harvey Weinstein is described as "famously tyrannical" and is portrayed as ruthlessly recutting Shyamalan's 1998 indie film "Wide Awake." "Why is he doing this?" Shyamalan is quoted asking one of Weinstein's lieutenants. "Because you're not an A-list director," the unnamed aide answers. "But could I be?" Shyamalan asks. Then, Bamberger takes us into Shyamalan's head as he imagines Weinstein's answer: "Night heard Harvey screaming in the silence: 'You're not, and you never will be.' The movie bombed, as it had to. It had been made in bad faith." That, in essence, is the reason Shyamalan — who today is not only A-list, but is such a known quantity that his name alone sells a movie — gives for his refusal to continue his relationship with Disney. The book's most revealing scene is the tense dinner of Feb. 15, 2005, and its aftermath — referred to by Shyamalan's colleagues as "The Valentine's Day Massacre." The setting was a fancy Philadelphia restaurant, Lacroix, not far from the farmhouse where Shyamalan, his wife and two daughters live. But from the start, the book says, the dinner seemed doomed. The tables were too close together, and "Night felt that other diners could hear their conversation." Seated next to Shyamalan, Jacobson aired her problems with the script. Criticisms "came spewing out of her without a filter," Bamberger writes. "You said it was funny; I didn't laugh," the book quotes her as saying. "You're going to let a critic get attacked? They'll kill you for that … Your part's too big; you'll get killed again … What's with the names? Scrunt? Narf? Tartutic? Not working … Don't get it … Not buying it. Not getting it. Not working." Her words went over like spoiled fish. "She went on and on and on," the book says. "Night was waiting for her to say she didn't like the font" his assistant had printed the script in. After way too many courses, Disney executives walked Shyamalan and his agent to the elevator, and Cook asked to speak to the director alone. "Just make the movie for us," Cook said, hoping to keep Disney's most important director in the fold. "We'll give you $60 million and say, 'Do what you want with it.' We won't touch it. We'll see you at the premiere." Shyamalan said he couldn't do that. He couldn't work with those who doubted him. As Cook and his team left the hotel, Shyamalan broke down and cried. "He was crying because he liked them as people and he knew he would not see them again, not as his partners," the author writes. "He was crying because he was scared … He was crying because he knew they could be right." Shyamalan wasn't the only one crying. Jacobson has confided to colleagues that when she returned to her hotel room at the Four Seasons that night, she broke down. She and Shyamalan would not talk again until March of this year. At the director's request, the two met for breakfast at the posh Hotel Bel-Air. By then, Bamberger writes, Shyamalan had realized that "it wasn't Nina's fault that she didn't 'get' the original 'Lady' script, it was Night's fault." Despite that late-in-the-book mea culpa, associates of Jacobson say that reading the tell-all was painful for her. She declined to comment on the book and on Shyamalan himself. But she acknowledged the inherent difficulties of the "patron-artist" relationship. "Not seeing eye to eye on a particular piece of material doesn't have to be the end of a relationship," Jacobson said. "It may not always be easy to have an honest exchange. But in order to have a Hollywood relationship more closely approximate a real relationship, you have to have a genuine back and forth of the good and the bad." She added: "Different people have different ideas about respect. For us, being honest is the greatest show of respect for a filmmaker.""
     
  2. Sean Laughter

    Sean Laughter Screenwriter

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    Well, she's right about the cameo anyway.
     
  3. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

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    Self-serving sounds reasonable. The book is self-serving. Whatever. The movie looks OK, and that's all I care about. Equating his problems with real artistic struggle is a bit of a streeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetch in my opinion.
     
  4. Jason_V

    Jason_V Producer

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    On the one hand, I do feel bad for Night because of his previous relationship with Disney and knowing that they didn't "get" the script can hurt badly.

    On the other hand, I've always found him to be a self-indulgent, mediocre to good writer/director who thought he was second coming of Jesus or something. That turned me off to him completely while watching the extras for "Unbreakable". He always seemed to have this holier than thou attitude about him that I couldn't quite figure out.

    Yes, "The Sixth Sense" was a good movie with a "duh" type of ending, but everything he's done since has been average at the very best.
     
  5. Mickey Brown

    Mickey Brown Stunt Coordinator

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    This guy is going to keep gravy training his one good flick. Everything else has been ho hum.
     
  6. Bryan Beckman

    Bryan Beckman Second Unit

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    Shyamalan has been quite open about Lady in the Water being his most personal story yet. I think he took Jacobson's criticisms too hard because he was so attached to the script. So on one hand, I'd say he needs to develop thicker skin. On the other hand, he is an artist, so there's also that element of freedom to express your vision in the way you want.

    Like oil and water, Hollywood has always been an odd mixture of art and commerce. Directors need to keep that in mind when they ask studios to pony up $60 milion for their next oeuvre. [​IMG]

    You gotta wonder what Shyamalan's intentions are for putting out this book, though. Most directors are mature enough to deal with studio bullishness without proclaiming it from the rooftops. I think of Ridley Scott in that regard from the "Path to Redemption" doc on the Kingdom of Heaven: DC DVD. Disney's an easy (and somewhat acceptable) target to beat on for all their many sins. Now you can add "stifling the director's creative vision" to that list. Hmm.
     
  7. EricW

    EricW Cinematographer

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    i agree that he has an 'atitude'... the guy's got genuine talent, but you have to accept the pretentiousness if you're going to enjoy it. and it does seem like his own 'cameos' get bigger and bigger with each movie [​IMG]

    btw, did anyone see Night's amex commercial? you can either go to the amex website and look for it or go to the podcast section on itunes and look for it. his was pretty good, but Wes Anderson's was utterly brilliant
     
  8. Josh.C

    Josh.C Second Unit

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    I'm not sure if I would call "Signs" a "ho hum" movie. I actually like Shyamalans work. I even liked "The Village".

    I know very little about the guy as a person, but I do like most of his movie's. I consider them to be very thought provoking, and very different from the status quo.

    I did think the comment about the increasing length of his cameo's was pretty funny. I thought his part in "Signs" was poorly cast. He definitely should stay behind the camera.

    Not sure was to expect with LITW, but I will probably give it a chance.

    JC
     
  9. Mickey Brown

    Mickey Brown Stunt Coordinator

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    I enjoyed the movie until the alien in the big rubber suit came into the living room. All I could think of was 'Sweet Fancy Moses! $100 bazillion dollar movie and you have to ruin it with a dude in a cheap rubber suit?'
     
  10. David (C)

    David (C) Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm on Disney's side, at least on this matter.
     
  11. Robert Anthony

    Robert Anthony Producer

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    Just from reading the excerpt--I didn't think my opinion of Night as a man too in love with his own words could be further strengthened, but it just has. He sounds like someone to whom the concept of editing is as alien as the antagonists in Signs.

    Constructive Criticism is a plus. It's NECESSARY. It's not something to be shunned and railed against. Yes, they're movie execs, and yes they typically bend over art in the name of commerce, but if one of the execs trashes your self-indulgent script at dinner and the other says "We don't care, here's 60 mil, make what you wanna make" Then you MAKE WHAT YOU WANT TO MAKE, and SCREW what the other exec said.

    Don't lash out and write a book because you finally discovered what Self-Doubt is. See, most people get that feeling, they get introspective for a second, and they reassess. They build from there. He threw a tantrum, curled up in the fetal and shit out a histrionic sounding book about his corporate babysitters.

    He's gonna come off like the world's most oversensitive prima-donna when this thing is all done. And that's quite a feat--making DISNEY look sympathetic.
     
  12. Quentin

    Quentin Cinematographer

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    Uhhh...everything Robert just said. [​IMG]

    "Auteurs" like Shyamalan could use a good editor/writing assistant who is more than a yes man. Same goes for Cameron.
     
  13. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

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    "On the other hand, I've always found him to be a self-indulgent, mediocre to good writer/director who thought he was second coming of Jesus or something."

    Yup. I really liked Unbreakable, found 6th Sense and The Villiage to be just ok and dispised hated and loathed Signs.

    The "Second coming of Speilberg" comments are absolutely ridiculous.
     
  14. Ray H

    Ray H Producer

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    I thought the alien was CGI.

    Either way, this situation reminds me of the scene in The Godfather where Johnny Fontaine visits his Godfather and sobs about his Hollywood problems.

    You can act like a man! [​IMG]
     
  15. Robert Anthony

    Robert Anthony Producer

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    I love that sequence.

    "ACT LIKE A MAN!"
     
  16. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    Except at that point, it was too late, the damage had been done.

    I agree that Night overreacted, but he seems to be a guy with a fragile ego in the first place, and it didn't seem Disney didn't handle that aspect all that well either. I can certainly understand the crushing feeling when your pride and joy has the appearance of getting crushed by others.

    At least in the end, Night seems to have admitted some responsibility in the episode.

    You can question his motivations in having this published, tho. One could say that this is just something to clear the air, but it isn't usually good form to trash your former employer in public.

    Jason
     
  17. Jassen M. West

    Jassen M. West Supporting Actor

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    He always seems to do some sort of publicity stunt before he releases a movie and we always seem to come here and discuss it. [​IMG]
     
  18. EricW

    EricW Cinematographer

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    'and he cried because [reason#1] and he cried because [reason#2] and he cried because [reason#3]' [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Jason_V

    Jason_V Producer

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    Yup. But, by a show of hands, who's going to be seeing this?

    I'll be the first to call "not it".
     
  20. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    Night really needs to stop appearing in his own movies.
     

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